STAMFORD — Until now, Stamford had played it safe on cannabis. In A sea of towns have placed moratoriums or outright banned themThe second-largest city of the state, for recreational marijuana sales, has allowed its existing rules to speak for themselves.
There are no explicit rules governing cannabis in Stamford and, according to Mayor Caroline Simmons’s office, more rules will come as necessary.
Lauren Meyer, the city’s mayoral spokesperson, was asked if the Simmons administration would take a formal position on dispensaries. “the state legislation legalizing the recreational use and sale of marijuana is comprehensive and thorough, and we thank Gov. (Ned) Lamont for his leadership in developing this long overdue and forward-thinking policy.”
“We will continue to evaluate lessons learned as this type of business grows in Stamford to ensure that economic development does not jeopardize equity and public safety,”She made the statement in a written statement.
State law, in the absence of any other cannabis regulations, still provides a pathway forward. Lamont passed the law in 2021 stipulates that — without other regulations — cannabis in a town or city is governed by its existing zoning rules.
“A cannabis establishment shall be zoned as if for any other similar use, other than a cannabis establishment, would be zoned,”According to the law. At a Planning Board meeting last month city officials went through exactly what this means for Stamford.
At that meeting, Fine Fettle is an existing medical dispensary. Dispensary in Stamford’s Research Park, sought permission to become a “hybrid” one. A state law allows hybrid dispensaries to sell both medical and recreational marijuana in one location.
City planner Vineeta Mathur told board members that Stamford’s lawyers and professional planning staff agreed that the closest use is medical marijuana.
“If we had limitations already, those allow us to restrict the locations, or the use itself,”Mathur informed board members. “In absence of that, we need to treat it as the closest similar use.”
“The medical marijuana dispensary use already has limitations in terms of being only permitted in very few places and being strictly regulated,”She continued. Local zoning regulations establish that medical marijuana dispensaries — and subsequently, recreational dispensaries — can only open by obtaining special permission from planning and zoning officials.
It is not possible to open medical dispensaries. “within a 3,000 feet … of any other dispensary,”Only five commercial or industrial zoning districts in Stamford are permitted for this purpose.
Though the Planning Board unanimously approved Fine Fettle’s application and it is slated to be heard by the zoning board in the coming weeks, the approval came with extensive debate. The board members debated whether recreational cannabis sales should be allowed without having to write them into the city regulations.
“I think if we had known at the time that a medical marijuana dispensary was also going to be allowed to be open to the public for marijuana sale, we may not have allowed medical marijuana facilities to be in the city of Stamford,”During the meeting, Theresa Dell was the chair of Planning Board.
Fine Fettle already has permission to be used by the town officials WindhamBenjamin Zachs, chief operating officers, said that recreational cannabis can be sold in Newington as well as Newington. To sell cannabis to adults aged 21 or older, all three of his Connecticut dispensaries must have permits from the state.
It is not easy to get this license approved, he said. To get a license, companies will need to submit proof that their business plans have been approved by the Zoning Board. To receive final zoning approval in municipalities like Stamford, however, a license must be obtained. Fine Fettle, an operator, is faced with a complex situation as they progress through the permitting process.
“What we can do is get all of our ducks in a row, which we’re in the midst of doing and have done,”Zachs said.
Like the Planning Board chair, City Rep. Jeffrey Stella, D-9, is more skeptical of cannabis’s place in Stamford.
Stella has expressed concerns in the past over where people can smoke in Stamford, and in October 2021, he and former city Rep. J.R. McMullen — who now serves on the Board of Finance — floated rules to ban smoking cannabis on school property. (State cannabis law already bans smoking marijuana. “within in any area of a school building or on the grounds of such school.”The state also prohibits smoking in restaurants, dormitories at college, and hotel rooms.
Stella is interested seeing more concrete cannabis rules for Stamford, especially when it comes to where you can smoke.
“I can tell you, if you come down to Leone Park at any given time, you can smell it,”He said. Stella also mentioned long-term concerns regarding crime and driving under the influence.
The nonprofit Cato Institute conducted a 2021 analysis and found that “violent crime … neither soared nor plummeted in the wake of marijuana legalization”In the 11 states that legalize recreational cannabis.
Zachs, a cannabis entrepreneur, claims dispensaries are not legal despite his assurances. “incredibly secure all over the country,”Stella would like to see more public debate about cannabis in Stamford. He’s wary of Stamford becoming a haven for cannabis, whereas Nearby towns such as Greenwich, Darien, and New Canaan have banned it.
Fine Fettle wants to sell adult-use marijuana in Stamford but there are still some steps to go before recreational cannabis sales begin.
The state Department of Consumer Protection has yet announce who the state’s retailers will be; Connecticut’s cannabis information portal says that recreational “sales could begin in late 2022.”